What to Do With Poire Williams tart

“Then something not at all like familiar Monet: a close-up, tablescape painting of two galettes des pommes on raffia mats. The slices of apple, as Monet paints them, are golden, cooked in sugar and calvados and arranged in a Catherine Wheel pattern. The pastry is scored like a shell and a sharp knife waits on the tablecloth. In the summer of 1882, the painter had decamped to a hotel in Pourville-sur-Mer where the spécialité de la maison was a galette of caramelised apples with a frangipane almond filling.”

-Laura Freeman, The Reading Cure: How Books Restored My Appetite

Some friends gave us an impressive bottle of Williamine (a Swiss brand of schnapps known as Poire Williams, made with pears). We prefer to drink something else, so what to do with it? The answer is to make it into this fragrant tart. It’s worth buying the Poire Williams especially for it!

I think this tart might be even better with pears, but the chief taster isn’t a great fan of those. If you use pears you will be sharing in a very old heritage indeed. The first recorded fruit tart used pears. It was quite a historic development in the pie world since not only did it involve fruit, and sweetness, but it was one of the first pie to use pastry which was actually intended to be eaten as opposed to simply providing a vehicle in which to bake. The pastry was intended to actually taste nice, be part of the whole enjoyable eating process. The author of the recipe was a Frenchman, Guillaume Tirel aka Taillevent, who in 1379 penned a collection of recipes and advice entitled Le Viandier.

history of pear pie
The creator, maybe, of the pear pie, depicted on his tomb with his first and second wives.

Having made the pastry, he recommends the chef should:

“fill the hollow with sugar; for three big pears about a quarter of a pound of sugar, well-covered and glazed with eggs and saffron then cook them.”

Recipe for Williamine tart

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 3 medium apples, peeled and cored and sliced, or pears, or a mix of both
  • 120 ml rum
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 150g butter
  • 150g soft brown sugar
  • 1 egg and 1 egg yolk
  • 150g ground almonds
  • 3 tbsp/25g plain flour
  • 6 tbsp/90 ml williamine
  • 180g/6 oz membrillo aka quince paste…. or 6 tbsps quince jelly

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Poach the apples in the rum, honey and vanilla paste for about 15 minutes.
  3. Using an electric mixer beat the butter, sugar, egg and egg yolk, ground almonds, 3 tbsp williamine and the flour.
  4. Heat together the remaining williamine and the membrillo.
  5. Pour the nut cream into a pie dish.
  6. Arrange the apple on top.
  7. Glaze with the williamine/membrillo mix.
  8. Bake 40 minutes.
poire willem
They gave us an impressive bottle, with an entire pear inside.
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